Chairman's update on the coronavirus pandemic - 11 December 2020

Last week I referred you all to our summary of ‘key messages about the tier system and Christmas Bubbles.’ I hope most of you will have had an opportunity to read this by now and familiarise yourselves with the rules and advice that will be important for our community in the coming weeks. You can find this summary on our website:

A couple of things to highlight this week as we enter the festive season: whilst our current Tier 1 status allows for people to meet in groups of 6, I would ask that before you do so, you consult the guidance and ensure you stick to the rules that apply. In particular, please bear in mind that government guidance stipulates that if you are forming a Christmas Bubble this year, you should already be reducing unnecessary contact with people you do not live with. These considerations are particularly important at a time of year when many of the islands’ services have to operate at reduced capacity to allow their staff a much-needed Christmas break.

We included the following example in our ‘key messages about the tier system and Christmas Bubbles’ summary mentioned above, but I feel it is worth repeating here. The graphic below illustrates a real example in Cornwall where 12 friends went out to dinner and booked 2 tables of 6 next to each other. One person in the group had coronavirus but didn't realise - they then passed it on to 3 further friends as well as the waitress serving the tables. This resulted in 3 small businesses and offices having to close. These people passed the virus onto their households and ultimately 18 people were infected following this single night out. The rules clearly restrict interaction to a maximum of 6 people, and by stretching these rules in this instance, lots more people were put at risk and contracted the virus. Please consider the impact a similar situation would have on the islands.

Any attempt to stretch the rules could result in a further lockdown in January, which I’m certain is an outcome everyone would rather avoid if possible. Whitney Curry, Advanced Public Health Practitioner has made this video to compliment the key messages document and emphasise the importance of not letting our guard down this Christmas:

Still on the subject of Public Health, I am delighted to confirm that Rachel Wigglesworth has been appointed as the permanent Director of Public Health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. My colleagues and I are really glad to hear that her successes in keeping Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly safe this year have been recognised and that we continue to be in safe hands, congratulations Rachel!

In other good news this week, and following a great deal of effort by colleagues on-island and in Cornwall, I was able to announce the Department for Transport’s decision to extend the financial support for our lifeline transport links to March 2021. The DfT have now provided a total of £9.7m to support lifeline transport services, and I’m incredibly grateful for the time they have given to considering our circumstances and for this vital financial support. To read our news item, follow this link:

I’m sure many of you share my joy at seeing the first person receive the coronavirus vaccine this week. It’s an amazing achievement and I really hope this marks a turning point in the pandemic and a significant move towards being able to return to normality. 

On an altogether merrier note, I see the Christmas lights have started appearing around St Mary’s, which is a very welcome sight indeed! I’m sure you would all like to join me in thanking the Christmas Lights Committee for their hard work in getting these displays up every year. This year many of the old lights are being replaced with new, energy efficient LED bulbs, which I’m delighted to say has been supported in part by a donation from the Council. You can read all about this example of community Christmas spirit at the following link:

Speaking of community spirit, I am really pleased to be able to confirm that the swimming pool engineer has arrived on island and is working at the pool as I write this. There will also be further work over the weekend and we’re hoping to test the system throughout next week. The aim is to reopen the pool on 21 December, but Active Scilly will give a further update next week when the required testing has taken place and all the facts are known.

I can also confirm that, whilst the playpark at the Garrison will not be reopening until the new year at the earliest (when the necessary materials will be delivered) the required work on the Porthcressa playpark is underway. The fence has already been mended and parts for some of the other equipment are expected to arrive with our supplier shortly. As soon as we receive the parts, we should be able to complete the work quickly. It is our hope that the Porthcressa playpark will reopen before Christmas, but I will confirm either way in my update next week.

Christmas will certainly be different for all of us this year and there are a number of things we can all do to help each other overcome the worries which often go hand-in-hand with the celebrations at this time of year. It’s a good time to check in with loved ones, particularly if you know they will be on their own. And, of course, local businesses are relying on pre-Christmas trade for a boost this year - so if you can buy locally, then please do.

Let’s go into the New Year with some hope and make 2021 a good one!

With my very best wishes

Robert Francis

Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly

Publishing date: 
Friday, 11 December, 2020